July 16, 2015 / 5:33 PM / 2 years ago

Fed's Williams vows more transparency after meeting with Fed Up

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John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, speaks in San Francisco, California March 27, 2015.Robert Galbraith

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco Fed President John Williams has promised more transparency after a rare meeting with a coalition of community and labor groups which also urged the U.S. central banker to keep interest rates low.

Williams largely dismissed their call to hold off on interest-rate hikes, repeating his mantra that monetary policy will depend on economic data. But he said the meeting earlier this week pushed him to "think a little more proactively" about how the Fed recruits and promotes top management.

"I want the Fed to be more transparent," Williams said in an interview. "We've learned along the way that this process of selecting presidents and other aspects of the Fed are not that clear to the public. We should make it more open."

While the San Francisco Fed is not searching for a president or first vice-president, "we want to make sure not only are we doing it right, but also in the future maybe to move the ball forward even further," he said.

He noted that the Minneapolis Fed's openness about its ongoing presidential search is one example to learn from.

The Fed's perceived opaqueness has drawn increasing fire in recent months, with Fed Chair Janet Yellen in testimony this week standing her ground against Congressional efforts to subject the Fed to more oversight. Regional Fed banks' executive searches are also under scrutiny for apparent insularity.

Williams said the meeting also reminded him that despite strengthening overall economic growth, there are "a significant number of people who are left behind and struggling."

One example is Ebony Isler, who ran a hairdressing business until recession-hit clients could not afford her services.

Now, as a part-time cashier at the San Francisco Giants' downtown ballpark, she relies on high-interest loans to bridge her paydays.

"I can't find a job that pays me enough to be self-sufficient," Isler said in an interview after she and a dozen other members of the non-profit group Fed Up met with Williams on Monday.

The group, which first grabbed national attention last summer when it crashed the Kansas City Fed's annual central bankers' meeting in Jackson Hole Wyoming, presented Williams a report arguing that as long as inflation and wage growth remains dull, the Fed should keep rates near zero. (bit.ly/1JdXQAe)

Williams regularly meets with bankers and chief executives.

Meeting with activists, he said, "helps you to think concretely about why are people out of the labor force, what are the problems they are facing."

The group has also sat down with Yellen, Kansas City Fed President Esther George and Boston Fed chief Eric Rosengren.

Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Richard Chang

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